Tag Archives: History

Mythology

Eight thousand (ish) years ago, my ancestors sat on the banks of the Black Sea in a region that is now Ukraine and looked out over the waves, probably telling stories. By all accounts they had a language, but what it was is unknown, and they had religion, which we do know a bit about. The stories they told around the fire or in holy places were probably not all that different from the ones we tell now. They’d speak of divine intervention, the power and might of warriors, the calm and love of healers.

Today, we speak of the same things with the same reverence. We build the same mythologies, these stories that might have no importance to someone outside of the tribe, or might be thought of in the opposite like, a tale of woe a tale of glory; a tale of victory a tale of defeat. But the sharing of these stories, the telling of having been there, of having felt the emotion first hand, will only last so long. These beloved memories will slip fully into myth.

But they also slip into myth today, in real-time, whenever they are recounted to someone who had not been there. Or every time we add a little detail, subtract a little detail, or embellish something a wee bit. When we let emotion get the best of us and blind us from an objective retelling, because an honest retelling not need be constrained by reality.

I’ve been thinking about these modern myths recently because a coworker asked about my desktop backgrounds, modern cave paintings depicting warriors in celebration or battle. Warriors wearing rouge and gold and those who see them off to battle sounding horns and manipulating the battlefield with smoke and fire. He asked what they meant and so I told him in a rather round-about way. I didn’t tell him the objective truths behind the images; I told him the myths, as real to me now as they were when I witnessed them with my own eyes, my own ears.

I told him of the great warrior WMB, swift as the wind, as nimble as a bird, who with strength and resolve dashed our foes, the vile Lansing, breaking them forever, never to rise from field again.

I spoke of the Dragon, who with rippling abs too numerous to count, dug in and rescued our forces from defeat in such a glorious way that the songs of our people summoned forces far greater to extinguish our fires.

I regaled him with the story of the beast Louro and his one-man-stand against a great stag, and beating his chest when he left that monster bloodied and dead in its own meadow. And of when he raised that golden belt above his head, surrounded by a grateful tribe who had traveled seeking revenge.

And the mousy knight, with his right foot of destiny, when things looked tight and bleak, and that our wall of brick would be called upon to save the day, did lay low that monster from the suburbs in the ninety-third minute.

But not just warriors, I also told tales of great journeys to far off lands. Of invading Cleveland (a story that I told second-hand), of bus trips to sleepy towns in Wisconsin, or converging on a field of corn in the midst of a thunderstorm.

Of friends from far overseas who came in celebration, of culture shared, history shared, of pride shared.

I told him of foes.

Of dances that could’ve lasted forever.

I spoke of friendships that were forged with one who should’ve been our enemy, but when we saw him on the field, leg shattered, we rallied around him, brought him care and comfort. Sent him home more one of us then one of them.

There were great community gatherings, of celebration, of care, of community coming together to fix a chariot, or to heal one of our cherished sisters.

And too, I told him of that darkest moment, when things looked grim, and the vile enemy did have the advantage three to nil, with one of our warriors out of the fight. And how our songs never ceased. How our voices lifted and united. And slow and steady our warriors fought back, and before the day was over, found ourselves evenly matched. And the great warrior Seb did celebrate as a windmill, standing strong over a field of rouge and gold tulips.

He listened with eyes wide, he understood what it meant, that these were no ordinary tales of gallantry, these were myths, enshrined forever by the tribe. They would only grow brighter with time, a little fuzzier sure, but no less true, no less glorious.

In the nascent days of a kingdom, these myths bind us together, and they tell of who we are, what we stand for.

A Cup, A City, and a Deer

May 13th is going to be a strange day, it’ll be strange because for ninety minutes the world will revolve around three things: a cup, a city, and a deer.

Sure the lingering issues of the modern world will continue to linger long after the echos die down and two radically different clubs go their separate ways – but for ninety minutes there will be a microcosm in a little tin can in the northern suburbs of Detroit when le Rouge take on the Bucks in the first round of the Lamar Hunt United States Open Cup, the oldest national soccer competition in the United States and the third oldest in the world.

So let us begin our meandering tale there: what the fuck is the US Open Cup?

The fact that you don’t know what the oldest soccer competition in the United States is doesn’t surprise me in the least. Which is sad. The Open Cup is a knock-out tournament that involves all levels of soccer in the United States starting with semi-professional and adult leagues and working its way, slowly, to the MLS. At first it only involves the low-tier teams, fighting and weeding each other out. Each round another group of teams is added. First USL, then NASL, then finally the big guns walk in, the MLS teams join and then, almost inevitably, come to dominate the competition.

That’s okay, because it is a test. There are prizes for the teams that can stand the test, go the furthest in the face of million dollar players from England. Stand up and just maybe, earn a small piece of soccer history.

The US Open Cup is a special thing, though today it is dragged through the dirt and sand and treated like an unkempt dog. Left to wallow in a corner on the edge of the farmer’s property, eclipsed by his new pure-breed.

See, most other countries don’t have championships like us where half the teams “qualify” and go into a knock-out stage. They have “cups” and most countries have a handful. The season is just a season of normal games. When it ends whoever is on top wins. Cool, no problem – that rewards consistency rather than one lucky goal.

But we like luck, and we like those crazy moments when a rag-tag group of amateurs best a behemoth. That’s what cups are for. Off the top of my head in England the two main-ish trophies are the FA Trophy and the FA Cup. The FA Cup is like the Open Cup – it is for everyone. The FA Trophy, however, ignores the upper tiers in favor of putting the smaller teams against each other. (Thanks to FC Fargo Green Army on twitter for the correction.)

Everyone has a shot.

Yes, it is “unfair” to put a team like Detroit City potentially up against teams like the Seattle Sounders – but that’s the fun. It’s fun to get that chance. It’s fun to see how far your team can go. We’re not expecting Detroit City to win the Open Cup, we want to see how far we can go and what we can prove about soccer, fandom, and Detroit along the way.

That is the magic of the Open Cup – and the USSF squanders it in favor of the MLS Championship. Let’s not beat around the bush, these days it is pretty clear that the line between the USSF and the MLS is very, very blurry. The USSF is supposed to be a neutral party that governs soccer in the United States, including the MLS. But in recent months it seems more likely that the MLS is probably calling more than its fair share of shots – but this is a rant for another day.

The walk away should be that the Open Cup is a knock-out tournie with a ton of history and you should do everything in your power to catch as many games as you can. If you consider yourself a fan of a team or a fan of the sport in general – this is a serious part of our heritage and it deserves fucking better than announcements coming three hours late and from teams rather than the organization.

If I could I’d plea to the USSF to not continue to waste the Open Cup’s potential in favor of a single-league’s stupid knock-out championship. They are very different scenarios and both can co-exist.

Please, stop fucking up the Open Cup.

So that’s the cup. Who are the city and the deer?

Detroit City Football Club (pulling out full names here) and the Michigan Bucks are a strange pair. They’ve never played a game against each other and yet the air between them is already hot, filled with anger and hate – and yes a little jealousy from a certain Dan Duggan.

The Bucks are Dan Duggan’s baby – a PDL side with a long history of crowning achievements brought low by their crushing insignificance. In 2000 the Bucks became the first PDL side to defeat an MLS side – beating the New England Revolution. A feat that they repeated by defeating the Chicago Fire in 2012 only to fall to the Dayton Dutch Lions the next round. How, if that is the case, has no one heard of the Bucks before?

Well, that goes into the gaping maw that divides Detroit City from its older cousin.

The Bucks are an “old-fashioned” team based in nearly ancient 90s mentalities of Disney’d logos and “family friendly” soccer experiences. A stifled, oppressive, and timid atmosphere is all you get in the Buck’s indoor tin can of a field. Fans queue in the tens to buy nachos and sit quietly with their families to watch talented players attempt to impress scouts and then move on, leaving little to no mark on the club or its history.

They are, in short, a prestigious toy for its owner – Dan Duggan, brother to Detroit mayor Mike Duggan. Like a 60-something fawning over a model railway set in the basement, Duggan fawns over his little team and his “control” of the soccering experience in Detroit, something he monopolized from 1995 to 2012, when Detroit City and the Northern Guard finally pushed his team completely out of the minds of Detroiters.

Detroit City came onto the scene like a brick through a window, quickly gathering the latent soccer fans across Southeast Michigan and beyond. We flocked to a team decked in the blood and treasure, enjoyed every sulfurous second of that season, with out banners in the wind and our souls riding high.

Then 2013 came around and we did it again – bigger and better.

Then 2014 came and we grew some more. We got loud, we got noticed. And Duggan’s Buck’s continued to play beautifully but unwatched.

Now comes 2015. Detroit City was a dark house contender for the Open Cup, only slipping in at the last second because another team turned down their spot. From the second it was announced one word fluttered on the lips of anxious Guardsmen everywhere: Bucks.

Fuck the Bucks.

Buck the Fucks.

A smoldering hate that goes from the fans right up to the front offices began to glow and smoke under the gentle blow of a cold spring wind.

Both sides wanted it.

And we got it.

On April 8th, after hours of quiet, the Bucks announced they’d be hosting Detroit City FC in the first round of the Lamar Hunt United States Open Cup.

So here it is.

The club Michigan forgot v The club Michigan can never forget

Old School v New School

No Focus v Culture Focus

Theory v Practice

The rich man’s toy v The working man’s club

Who will prevail?

Fucking Bertha

(Photo – Dion De Gennaro)

Damsel in Distress

Let’s court some controversy, eh?

This is an image on imgur, a place where free ideas are exchanged in that way that free ideas are exchanged on the internet in that it tends to be a gargantuan echo chamber full of people who like imgur.

I don’t mind imgur, it does make facebook really boring as my mum eventually shares George Takei’s page which is really just the best socially-conscience parts of imgur plus a few days. And I can’t fault anyone for that, don’t get me wrong I am not ragging on imgur, George Takei, my mother, or event these two tweets. Sorry for lying to you for your clicks. But they feed me.

What I do want to talk about is old tropes that are falling out of favor, why that might be, is that a good thing, and what if any of those tropes I have in my own writing.

First I want to expand the “damsel in distress” for the time being to the “noble in distress” as this was a very common tactic that anyone with a good knowledge of history can tell you. Kidnap and ransom have always been a huge part of how humans have fought one another. Hostages were often a part of peace negotiations and infamously while it was fine to cut down levy soldiers, you’d always want to leave the nobles alive – so that you could sell them back at a profit.

This plays out time and time again in history, for me most notably in Western Europe’s Hundred Year’s War and in Japan’s Sengoku Period. The thought was if you had a hostage, the hostage’s family would not harm you for fear that you’d first retaliate on their hostage. Other times hostages would leave with sympathies for kind captors and hopefully prevent future conflict. And of course, for the womenfolk, marriages were great ways of cementing alliances as well as building dynastic control.

These situations did not always end well and murder and “disappearances” were common. So to were attempts to recover said missing relatives for things such as “honor” and “glory” and “not liking the political disadvantages placed by having lost a hostage but also not wanting to just abandoned them because of honor and glory.”

Thus the existence of the “damsel in distress” trope is not surprising. It plays well to the the male wish-fulfillment that defined fantasy and genre for admittedly too long. Big strong lad, usually working alone, gets to rescue girl, maybe cop a feel, and be received as a hero having triumphed over evil. When broken down like that, when at its barest and driest, the damsel in distress trope moves into cliche and is rightfully something to deride.

Why does it have to be a male knight?

Why does it have to be a female in distress?

Why does romance have to be the result of rescue?

There are a lot of problems here but the problem doesn’t necessarily have to be feminist or sexual or anything like that. Often times the sexualization of damsels in distress isn’t intended but rather the by-product of lazy, half-assed, mindless writing.

I don’t get the feeling from Mario that it is sexualizing or attempting to downplay the role of women by the original having Peach trapped in the tower. It certainly looks that way in hindsight, but it is a product of its time. Mario would be backwards if made today, but you look at Mario today and just as often Peach is a main character. That is serious progress.

The downside is of course they stick to lame “rebuild the macguffin” cliche plots. Oh boy.

I am digressing, though.

The main issue with sticking to the “damsel in distress” trope is that too often people forget that the damsel is a character too, regardless if the damsel is infact even a damsel and not a… what is the male of a damsel?

Well… “damsel” is the feminine diminutive of dominus so… dom? Don? Fuck it. Let’s go with Don because “dom” has some… other… meanings.

So imagine the scenario of a person in distress. Too often they are essentially a cardboard cut-out who, with their little voice box taped to the back, coos and swoons for our gender-not specified main character.

And that’s really about it.

More recently, and this is where it gets tripe, there has been a movement that suggests that backstory = character. Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess does this (in my opinion). Link has a significant other (not Zelda) and she is shown to have personality and backstory at the beginning. And then she gets kidnapped and ne’er more is it mentioned.

That’s just as bad! Honestly it is worse because it was like “I know this is wrong so if we throw some personality traits her way it is made okay, right? Then we can ignore her?” Its that whole cover-up is worse than the crime thing.

And for that series it is really all over the place. In Twilight the SO is interesting until she isn’t needed anymore, but at least Zelda and Midna are really strong female characters. And that is a huge plus (again to me). I’m not saying having a good character outweights a bad one, but having good important characters outweighs boring unimportant characters. Yeah, it sucks whats-her-face lost her personality to kidnapping, but in the end she was not an important character. So I guess it is okay?

I mean, think for a second if Midna was a shitty character. Then we start hitting some sour notes.

Actually, the more I think the less I want to do with talking about this game what with (thinks about Native American stereotypes shudders).

As I continue to ramble farther and farther down this trail, I should really cut to the crux of my problem and my point – the Damsel/Don in distress can be interesting – if the rescue isn’t the climax or if it is, the captured has gotten proper attention from the writer and reader.

I think the problem is the failure to create two sides of an otherwise interesting story. Interesting hero + boring villain + boring target character = cliche and boring story.  There has been some focus on sympathetic villains, which is good, but when we don’t see why the hero would rescue this person it sort of lends little weight to the story.

What if the hero doesn’t care about the target, but only the riches and fame? And not in that they’ll change their mind later way.

What if the target doesn’t like the hero? And not in that they’ll change their mind later way.

What if we take this rather dull story arc and relegate it to a subplot and  leave it there? What if we use it for characterization instead of climax? What if we…

Wait… Sam rescuing Frodo from the orcs.

There you fucking go. That is how you do the person in distress trope right.

Fucking eat your heart out.

Now I am not implying that I am the bestest writer evar. Or that my works are perfect, shining examples of it all done right, because they are not. There is a lot of saying and not doing here. That is essentially how a blog works.

In my own works I tend to use the common sense method. Or at least I think I do. My characters have gender, they aren’t like Ripley were you can essentially swap genders and still have them work beside the occasional remark. However I don’t go as far as Sam Sykes’ [highly sarcastic] remark to mention that the women are in fact women at least six times a page.

It exists. The characters exist within a society that has norms. It is a matter of fact, but that is where I draw the line. Just like I wouldn’t go on about most bodily functions (I mention urinating once and waste management once, both in “proper” ways I think), I don’t go on about a character’s gender unless it makes sense.

On of the main-est characters in Sun-King is Rozenn, who is a woman and a knight. She doesn’t completely fit in, but she isn’t rejected in her own society. There are reasons for that beyond it is a fantasy realm and the genders are equal and that is important to her character. She exists mostly within a man’s world. However I think I did a good job avoiding sexualizing beyond what a normal character would be like. She is flirty at times and reserved at others, just like any normal character or real-life human would be.

I mention her chest once and it was to characterize another character as a pig, so I think I can claim to be in the right there but perhaps someone will disagree.

But what about my male characters? Pretty much the same. I don’t on on about glistening muscles and big ol’ cocks. They exist within their societies as well and much in the same way. It is much harder to talk about how well I treat male characters because honestly our culture is much more used to male characters being treated well and female characters being defined more by what they are not than what they are.

Maybe I’m just shit at writing characters and that is what makes me so good at giving the genders equal attention and quality.

Anyway, for the most part I avoid the damsel in distress trope/cliche as much as I can because I didn’t have a chance where it actually came up in a way that wasn’t stupid. None of my characters are captured and held ransom – simple as that. It isn’t really an epic plot line, which is why Sam’s rescue of Frodo is so brief. One hero, one target, one locale, one arc. Done. Over.

Anyway. This is a long post and it doesn’t have any pictures so… um…

SMOKE BOMB

 

Oíche mhaith, motherfuckers.